HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A sense of loss is moving across the city of Hartford after Kevin Bell, a six-year-veteran of the Hartford Fire Department, died in a fire. It’s the first death of a Hartford firefighter in 40-years. Three other firefighters were injured in the fire, one seriously enough that he was taken to the burn unit at Bridgeport Hospital.
Bell was 48-years-old, and worked at Blue Hill Station Engine Co. 16. The cause of his death is still pending, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said.
“My brother in law called me hysterical. I couldn’t make out what he was saying and that’s when we found out,” said Shawn Bell, Bell’s brother.
Shawn Bell says his brother died doing a what he loved. “He was elated at the fact that he was going to become a fireman. He talked about becoming a chief. He said he can handle this and that’s what he was doing. He loved his job,” said Bell.
Childhood friend Trevor Foster said, “he encouraged you to get involved in anything that was positive. That’s how he was you know? There’s very few that come across that exemplifies humility and is there for youth and just a kind individual. I never heard him say a bad thing about anything.”
“It meant everything to him, he talked about it a lot about how much he liked it, the things he wanted to do with his careers in the fire department,” said Bell.
Family members say Hartford firefighter Kevin Bell loved his job, loved it so much he laid down his life in the line of duty. But he had another love, his wife Rayette, his high school sweetheart whom he married and had a daughter with.
“I know we are going to hear hero a lot but he was really Rayette’s hero,” said Gaylord Womack, Bell’s cousin. He also loved music and loved to DJ parties. His cousin had fun with him on Saturday spinning records at a family surprise party. “He said no problem cuz, I will catch up with you later on,” said Womack. There was no later on. That is the last time Gaylord saw his cousin alive.
Mayor Segarra says the firefighter taken to Bridgeport Hospital was burned over 10 percent of his body. He is Jason Martinez, 29, from Manchester. He’s been with the department since 2007. He is in critical but stable condition.
Gov. Dannel Malloy directed flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Bell. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the hero we lost and those who were injured in the line of duty in our capital city,” The governor and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said in a statement.
“This could be any town, this could be any department,” Mayor Segarra said Tuesday night. “These are men and women that on a daily basis put their lives in harm’s way for our protection.”
The fire broke out around 6:30 Tuesday night at a home along Blue Hills Avenue. The two families who lived in the home were able to safely get out.
What happened here last night at this home is under investigation. We don’t know the exact circumstances inside that led to one fire fighter losing his life. A witness tells News 8 that the second floor was on fire and there was so much smoke that the crew inside could not find their way out.
“She said one fireman did get hurt there was so much smoke billowing around he couldn’t see how to get out of the window and he turned loose,” Mary Lewis said. “That’s what she said; he fell from the window.”
Joseline Mundo watched Bell and other firefighters go inside the burning building just moments before she captured the eruption of flames on camera.
“I was so impressed because the fire was so consuming all the house and black smoke,” said Mundo.
News 8 also talked to a witness who says she knows the family on the second floor, two kids and a husband and wife. She took the two kids into her home when the fire broke out, and firefighters went into the burning building to get them out.
“They were really brave to go inside and help those people and it is sad what happened to the firefighters,” said Mundo.
The other two injured firefighters were being treated for injuries at Saint Francis hospital but have since been released. It’s been 40 years since the Hartford Fire Department has lost someone in the line of duty. He was Tommy Fischer, who died back in 1974.
In a heartfelt interview the mayor talks about how firefighters put their lives at risk everyday. “We’re all just keeping positive, keeping our prayers for the family and just supporting this young man and his family as much as we can,” Segarra said.
Bell’s family now plans a funeral and his brother Shawn says goodbye to his hero. “We were each other’s heroes. We always talk about what we wanted to do when we were kids as we grew up, what we wanted to do our life, our careers and we followed them,” said Bell.
“His loss is not a loss in vain and he made the ultimate sacrifice and we honor him,” said Huertas.
It’s been four years since a firefighter has been killed in a fire in Connecticut. That happened in Bridgeport in July, 2010, when Lt. Steven Velasquez and Firefighter Mitchell Baik died from smoke inhalation after they became trapped on the third floor of a multi-family house.
Firefighters from other departments are reportedly offering to take shifts in Hartford to help the department cover the city.